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Hot Door Handles

Today, it was in the low 80's here in SoCal. My car had been sitting in the sun for about an hour. I went to open the back door and was startled by how hot the door handle was. Anybody in AZ or NV noticed a problem? I looked at all the other cars around me and all their door handles were painted ...none were chromed. Interesting.

Did you try touching one of the others? Were they metal or hard plastic?

The firmware upgrade for auto extending door handles are being Beta tested.


Yes, our Model S is parked outside in southern California and the door handles on the side facing the sun get quite hot, almost dangerously hot. Auto extending door handles won't solve this problem because you still have to reach inside the door handle and pull on it to open the door.

Is the handle thick enough so that maybe the inside of the handle doesn't get as hot as the exposed parts?

@ BYT - No. I almost always unlock my car and extend my handles using my key fob to avoid getting smudges on the door handle. So I have limited experience of pressing on the outside of the handle with my thumb to cause the handle to open. In direct, bright sunlight the inside of the handle gets very hot. In this situation I usually just pull on the handle with a light quick pull just enough to get the door to pop open and then I grab the window to pull the door completely open.

Ah, darn! Well, thanks for the update


Thanks for sharing, you may have saved some of us future owners having burned fingies. I will be sure to park in the shade when possible and be careful opening the door when I can't.

Hot handles in hot sun is not a Tesla-thing, it's a metal handle-thing.

If anything, TM's servo tuck-away handle is better shielded from solar heating than is typical on other cars.

Chrome as a finish actually fares better than just about any paint because its reflective surface rejects heat better.

That said, if you're having an issue with hot handles, here's a suggestion:

Open the handles with the fob (rather than touching), and if you want more finger protection apply a 1mm thick silicone rubber tape pad to the inside of the handle.

You won't be able to see it, but it'll give the surface you pull on a soft feel and plenty of thermal insulation. The heat transfer coefficient of the silicone rubber is very low compared to metal. (Think silicone oven mitts).

You can cut the tape to fit with scissors, and just press it on. McMaster-Car online is one place to get it.

@Mark, will that not block any sensors? The 1mm tape that is?

Has anyone considered/tried 'clear bra' on the door handles to avoid smudges? Does it stop the touch sensor working?

BYT - don't think so, since it senses when you press the outside of the handle.

Nick - Best stuff for that is 0.1 or 0.2 polycarbonate. (that's what paint armor is). As near as I could tell on the test drive, it senses pressure rather than merely contact (so ohmic contact with the chrome seems unnecessary). But someone can easily test this in their car by putting a post-it over it and trying to press through the paper.

DIY car?

for $100k?


My 100k MB SL has painted plastic sheaths over the handles. They still get hot, but they transfer the heat more slowly so they don't generally burn my hand.

Of course, Daimler has been making cars for a 100 years, and TM ... 100 days. But they have accomplished a lot in record time.

I think TM will figure something out here. In the meantime, our improvised solutions can give them valuable feedback.

I think this is an issue that TM needs to address, not us. As an owner of over 15 different cars in the past 40 years I've never been burned by a door handle, even when it was over 100F and the car was in the sun.

As others have stated, it's the conductivity of the handles that transfers the heat easily which results in a rapid rise in your finger's temperature. That's why sitting on an aluminum bench that is 50 deg. F feels way colder than sitting on a wooden bench that is the same temperature.

Thanks to those that have some good ideas for a short-term fix, but this needs a permanent design solution and recall. The cost of one litigation for this (child's face, whatever) will dwarf the cost of the recall.

WOW! Seriously? How many times I have burned my leg on a hot tailpipe while unloading groceries. And there were no lawsuits. Keep a napkin in your pocket to pop the handle open if it's such a problem.

You could always move to Seattle. :)

Recall sounds like overkill. I doubt the handle gets hot enough to do any real harm, just discomfort.

I'm in Seattle. If you touched your tongue on your door handle, it would stick. Be happy with your burned fingers.

Squirt gun? Or water bottle? Water has way higher specific heat than chrome, should draw much heat away quickly.

Perhaps TM should consider a retro solution - Fine leather driving gloves. Fashionable, effective, and a new profit center for TM. | November 25, 2012

WOW! Seriously? How many times I have burned my leg on a hot tailpipe while unloading groceries. And there were no lawsuits. Keep a napkin in your pocket to pop the handle open if it's such a problem.

@cpetrush - there is a presumption that a tailpipe is hot, not door handles. If they cause discomfort when it is 80F out, imagine what they're going to be like when it's 110F. You don't think TM is going to get sued if some eight year-old kid grabs the handle and gets a third-degree burn? (140F can do that in five seconds) Maybe you live outside the US in a less litigious country, but that's a lawsuit waiting to happen.

TM needs to do some testing at determine how much of an issue this is, and fix it. Those who want to carry a napkin around can do so.

Getting Amped Soon, from a German perspective, the American solution to the problem would be a large sticker saying "Caution! Handles can be hot!" ;-) SCNR

@Getting Amped Soon

Keep in mind that, whatever the liability risk is, presumably every manufacturer who makes chrome handles also faces it. That would put Tesla in the company of at least Ford (I have a friend with a chrome-handled Explorer) and probably all the others as well. So if they have not yet been sued, Tesla probably won't be either.

I'm also thinking that if it's 110F outside, there aren't going to be many parts of your car one wouldn't get burned on if one were stupid enough to stay in skin-contact with it for 5 seconds.

I just did an informal poll while walking through a large parking lot:

12 - metallic-looking handles that were actually plastic on the inside
1 - fully-metallic handle

My point is simply that TM ought to evaluate the severity of this issue through some testing and implement a fix like a clear insulating film on the inside. The Model S handle is unique (heavy metal casting that is concealed inside the body) and there might be a unique issue with its temperature on a hot day.

The fact that some knowledgeable people (Rod and Barbara) called them "almost dangerously hot" on an 80F day is enough to convince me there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

@Getting Amped - fair enough

Aside from the possibility of burning peoples' hands, this conversation makes me wonder whether heat build up has anything to do with any of the door malfunctions that have been brought up (e.g., handles failing to present, presenting but failing to open the door, spontaneously popping open, etc.) Overheated electronics can do weird things.

@tesla.mrspaghetti - I think there is a very good chance you are correct about that. Another reason I hope Tesla QC personnel monitor these forums.

I started a thread about this issue over at TMC:!
I agree that the handles get unacceptably hot even in relatively mild weather if in the sun for a few hours. It's really going to be a problem for those in much warmer, sunnier climates. There is no way my kids could have opened those handles on that side of the car.

It gets up to 40 or occasionally 43 degreesC in Australia. In fact, those temps are expected in the state of Victoria tomorrow!!!! (43 is 109.4F!!!)

So my 9 year old daughter was basically in tears today after grabbing the door handle after our MS sat in the Southern California sun for about 3 hours today! Her fingers were red across her four fingers from grabbing the handles! They are dangerously hot and I'm having to use my shirt under my hand to open the doors!

Time to start entering through the hatch with the remote!!!!

How about using the fob to open the windows down and then opening it from the inside ? Would that work ?

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